Philippine police in suburban Quezon City said Monday that they have hauled about 300 violators of a new anti-smoking law off to jail.
After a few hours in holding cells, most were released pending trial.
The dragnet for the tough law--which went into effect over the weekend--snagged scofflaws as well as some unwitting violators.
One youth, puffing on a cigarette, arrived at a police station with food for a friend arrested earlier for unauthorized smoking. The 19-year-old was thrown into the cell with his friend after police explained that the smoking ban is enforced in police stations.
The new ordinance bans smoking in most public places--including buses, restaurants, government offices, hospitals and theaters--in the city of about one million just outside the capital of Manila.
Violators face a $10 fine, 10 days in jail, or both.
“No complaints so far,” Col. Rodolfo Garcia, a former smoker, said about the crackdown. But several people complained that they were unaware of the ban until they were hauled off public transportation or detained.
“I just arrived from Cebu City, and I did not know that there was an anti-smoking ordinance here in Quezon City,” said salesman Cesario Ong, who was among 13 people arrested Sunday during spot checks of passenger jeeps.
City officials later said they will put up signs along municipal boundaries warning people they are entering “a non-smoking city.”
But some radio commentators complained that if city officials are worried about public health, they should first crack down on smoke-belching jeeps and buses that clog traffic in metropolitan Manila.
A private organization, the Tri-Chest Societies on Cigarette Smoking and Health, blamed smoking for 85% of lung cancer deaths in the Philippines.